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Machine Learning with Starbursts

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This article was featured on HackerNoon magazine, YoungCoder, and was featured in Kath Ceceri’s book: Bots! Robotics Engineering with Hands-On Makerspace Activities . Her book is also a fantastic resource for many other activities. This past week I had the opportunity to partner with a local school for the Hour of Code . With the trust and support of the educators, I gave myself a new goal: spend the Hour of Code teaching and coding the basic concepts of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning with 5th and 6th graders — and without the help of any technology, I was left to use Starbursts instead. If I could successfully distill the concepts of A.I. and Machine Learning to a group of 5th graders without relying on any technology, it could create a very compelling case for how unnecessary technology is when it comes to teaching children to code.

A Different Approach to Teaching Kids and Teens to Code

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This article originally appeared in HackerNoon magazine. How do you teach 5th graders about Software Engineering concepts without getting too deep into any particular language? This is a question I’d been asking myself a few weeks in advance of attending a local school’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fair. I’d toyed with one of the standard approaches — move an object from a starting point to a destination with a series of commands (“Move left, turn 90 degrees clockwise, etc.). There are plenty of board games ( Robot Turtles, RoboRally ) and online examples of this concept, and while it definitely presents a clear goal, I’ve always felt the only big take-away for children is that the order of your operations matters. Not only this, but in a more literal sense, challenging problems like movement and rotation as well as object collisions are over-simplified. This leaves children with the wrong impression of programming — that there’s a set of commands out there

Mark

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A good friend of mine, one of the strongest people I know, a resilient guy - the type of guy that never complains, and whose attitude alone makes you push yourself to do more, and be a better person - was lost to cancer about a year after diagnosis. If you haven't had the pleasure of meeting Mark, he's the sort of guy that, even barely knowing you, would have you spend the 4th of July with him and his family (I know, because he did with me shortly after we'd met.) Mark was so much more than a person with cancer - he is a friend, he is a husband, a father, a photographer, a Star Wars fan who dresses up for the theatrical releases, a guy who plays the latest hit on non-stop repeat when he likes it. We played board games together. He made fun of the way I explained rules. He was also the kind of guy who could be vulnerable when he needed to be. Like a few months ago when I asked him how he was doing - and while I won't get into the details of a private conversa

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